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MINIMAL GUIDE: What to pack for a working holiday in Australia

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

This infographic from Viessmann points out, that a return flight from London to Hong Kong uses 3.4 tonnes of C02 and that's a pretty big contribution to anyone's carbon footprint, let alone someone who likes to spend as much time in Asia as I do. With its hole in the Ozone and huge parts of the great barrier reef dying, Australia, where I'm heading to this time, knows more than most places, the effects of  high C02 levels and global warming. There are loads of ways for us to cut our C02 levels, be it replacing an old boiler, or in my case, trying to reduce my number of flights.

With so many places that I want to see, I'd be flying forward and backwards all the time if I did them separately but doing an extended trip, with just two long haul flights at either end (and then mostly land travel in between) is great because I still get to see lots of different places but I leave make less of an impact on the planet!

One of the problems I do encounter with a longer trip though is what and how much, to pack! My latest adventure, back to Oz will be the third time that I've had to pack a carry on suitcase for an extended trip and out of the three it was the hardest.

The first time I had no idea I was doing, I definitely didn't pack enough but that was fine because I didn't care what I looked like when I was backpacking, it was hot and I was either drunk or hungover most of the time; plus it was my first trip and I was excited to buy the singlets and elephant pants.

The second time, was three weeks after I got home from my first trip and I was so desperate to get back to the Thai sunshine, that I didn't even unpack; just pulled out the things that I didn't use and left with less that 6kgs of stuff.

This time I'm going straight to Oz and having spent 6 months there already, I have a little bit more of an idea of what I want to take back with me. Hopefully it'll be useful knowledge for anyone struggling with what to pack for their own trip!
I know it's very hot there, I know I want to work in office and I know I'll probably be quite active to; so I've decided to split my packing into 4 different options, day, night, work and gym. More basically, I'll need smart(ish) & casual.


Tops

For the day, I want tops that work for the gym and for the sunshine - both mean I'm going to get quite hot so I'm looking at light, floaty materials and cropped shapes. I'm also taking some cute cami's that will work for both the day and night depending what I pair them with. It's important to pack things that are versatile. It's kinda like a 6 month capsule wardrobe.

          - 6 t-shirts and strappy cami's - 4 day/gym and 2 night/work
          - 3 sports bras - which I wear as tops to the gym
          - 3 cropped jumpers - I only want to take 2 but I can't pick
          - 1 long cardigan - works as kaftan, covers shoulders at work, got worn loads last time
          - 2 bralet tops - clubs or bars and are great for lazing around the house as well
          - 2 oversized t-shirts - when I cant be bothered to get dressed.

 Bottoms

I'm taking mostly shorts because that's what I wore most last time with my active lifestyle in Oz. These don't really work very well for smart occassions so I'm taking a black skirt as officewear too.

          - 4 gym shorts - great for lazing around/food shopping/ will probs wear these most
          - 2 fashion shorts - going out
          - 2 leggings - mostly for going out at night (food shopping, McDonalds lol etc)
          - 1 black bodycon skirt - for work but will probably get used quite alot
          - 1 cycle shorts - in case I fancy doing some more Uber.
          - 1 tracksuit bottoms - to travel in
Dresses

This is something I really missed wearing on my last trip since I only took 2 to Thailand. I often found myself wishing I had brought more because they look like I've put a bit more effort in and they are just so easy to throw on. 

          - 3 light, floaty dresses that work for day, night and casual office work.
          - 1 heavy, denim, strappy dress that I  bought in Thailand and just cant go without

Shoes

Last time I left the UK with a pair of trainers and a pair of flip flops. I came back a year later with six pairs of shoes so I need to be prepared this time.
          - Converse x 3 (I couldn't choose ok, this is excessive for me)
          - Air Max
          - Black Pumps
          - Flip-flops
 Other Bits
        
          - 2 Bikini's - never to the beach, only to the apartment pool
          - Sunglasses - my awesome new Ray-Bans from Smartbuy Sunglasses *GIFTED
          - Underwear - one weeks worth works for me
          -  Minimal mini toiletries - just so I can brush my teeth & shower when I get there.
          -  Perfume - 30ml so I can take it if I go anywhere on a budget
          - Backpack - mostly for the plane - snacks, laptop, passport.
          - Handbag - I'm taking a black cross body and a mini backpack for the gym or days out
          - Rain coat - it rains alot in Queensland.
For me, this is overpacking and I would never have packed this much for my Asia trips - I literally went there for 3 t-shirts, but I feel like I can take a bit more if I'm looking to settle in one place for longer. Although the weight is a bit more, with the help of my packing cubes, it all literally takes up exactly the same amount of space so why not?! They do an amazing job of getting everything compressed and into your suitcase neatly. I got mine on Ebay for £5 and I wouldn't travel without them now. 

From this:
to this:
 I hope this has been useful if any of you are off to Oz!

Brisbane on a budget

Monday, 11 March 2019

Two weeks ago, I took a 29 hour journey from London to Brisbane and spent the week there solo, before meeting up with Jonny after our month apart.

Brisbane was the cheapest place in Australia to fly in to which worked for me as that was exactly where I wanted to go. I flew from from Heathrow, via Manila with Philippines airlines and I can 100% recommend them. The food, service and selection of films were all really good plus I liked that you get a little amenity pouch even in economy. My favourite thing however, was that the first 14 hour leg of my journey only had 99 people on board so we got a whole row each and I slept for a solid 10 hours.

That being said, I had some of the worse jet-lag of my life so ended up spending quite a lot of that week in bed, although, as it slowly started to subside, I was been able to get out and explore the city a little bit more. Apart from accommodation, I've spent less than $70 so in this post, I wanted to share some of the ways I've kept spending to a minimum.

Flatshare 

First things first, accommodation. Hostels in Oz are much more expensive than in Asia, you're looking at $25-$30 per night and for the same price, you could rent a room in an apartment for a week. I searched Facebook for groups like Brisbane flatmates hub and sorted it all out before I arrived. It meant I had my own air conditioned, en suite room and a kitchen, complete with beautiful engineered wood flooring to cook my own food in, just a 20 minute walk into the city centre.

There were 4 other people living in the apartment from all over the world and we spent a could of nights drinking out on the balcony which was really nice. 

Another great thing about being in an apartment block was that it also gave me access to a private pool and a little gym which I took full advantage of! 


City Hopper Cruise

The city hopper ferry is a free service that runs along the river and stops in the main parts of town. Not only is it great, free public transport but for a tourist, it's a super fun, cheap way to see the city. With an open top to sit at so I ran up there as soon as I got on.

City Markets

I accidentally stumbled across different markets almost every day. There was a cute craft one that runs over the weekend on the South bank which had a really lovely atmosphere, it was lined with bars and restaurants and everyone was outside in the sunshine enjoying themselves.

Then there was the food market just by North Quay ferry terminal which seems to be where they have different markets every day. The 2nd I spotted on my way back from the ferry terminal - I walked past to see hundreds of students and backpacker types set up on the floor with clothes literally everywhere. After a little bit of research, I learned that it was the suitcase rummage sale which is held on the first and third Sunday of each month. Most pieces were going for $5 each (£2.50) and I very nearly bought myself a pair of Gymshark leggings for $3 but I'm trying to travel light so I resisted.


South Bank

This is one of Brisbane's most famous areas and really is worth a visit. The coolest part was definitely Streets Beach - a man made beach in the middle of the city and it's pretty unique, I've never seen anything like it. There is also where you'll find the Brisbane wheel, a whole load of bars and restaurants and also a load of free events. 

Something else I thought was really pretty was a big steel structure that ran along the walkway down to the beach. It's called The Arbour and was covered in beautiful pink flowers, it was like something out of Alice in wonderland. 


Supermarkets 

This one has saved me a lot of money although I don't know if I would have necessarily stuck to supermarkets as much as I did, had I not been too jet lagged to enjoy food properly. Apart from a smoothie bowl and a cheeky Maccas (or two), I ate every meal from the supermarket and that was the only money I actually spent.

Birmingham Staycation Ideas

Sunday, 17 February 2019

After 24 hours in the air on our way home from Australia, Jonny and I landed back in London for a brief evening before our annual family trip to Birmingham commenced. My brothers both go to university there so it's been a road trip that I look forward to every year for a while now - plus this time, we had Molly with us.

My post about our recent visit seemed like the perfect opportunity to collaborate with Lease Car and their BMW contract hire! They created this infographic which discusses some of the best places to drive in the UK and hence, this blog post, about one of my favourite UK road trips, was born!


 We went just before Christmas so our first stop was the Christmas market for some lunch but since I'm a bit late getting this post up, I'm just going to share the things that you can do year round!

Checking In

Over the past few years, we've stayed in different hotels around the city but since there were a few more of us this year, we decided to try something different and went for an apartment.

Saco are a brand I've stayed with before in London so I knew the one my mum picked was going to be nice. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen, living area and a huge balcony looking over Birmingham, it was just what we wanted.


Brindley Place

Our apartment block was just down the road from Brindley place which is one of our favourite parts of the city. It's an area of bars and restaurants lining the canal and such a lovely place to spend the evening so of course it was our first choice when deciding where to spend my dads birthday.

We started with a round of cocktails at Pitcher and Piano then went further down to a restaurant called The Canal House for dinner.


Warwick Castle

The castle is about 30 minutes drive from Birmingham city and a fun way to spend a few hours if you have a car. We wandered around the grounds, watched the birds of prey show which was pretty cool and finished our visit with a guided tour of the rooms inside the castle.

Thomas Oken Tea Room

Just outside the castle is the cafe in a cute, little, crooked cottage and the perfect place for lunch! The owners told us that the place is haunted and the room that we were in once caught fire with no other explanation than paranormal activity; but that didn't put us off, it was super cute and very cosy after a cold morning.

With a whole shelf of board games and the table soon filling up with teapots, finger sandwiches and sweet treats, we had a lovely afternoon stuffing our faces and playing taboo.


Coming back in time for Christmas meant getting used to the weather and as per usual, I was freezing. Luckily, my feet weren't a problem because I took part in a Secret Santa with Jake Shoes and arrived home to the ultimate winter pair of Converse.

I love Converse and had been travelling in the same pair since I left in January; they were literally falling apart by the time I got back to England so Roxii (aka my secret Santa) did well with this pair! Black all over and perfectly amped up for winter with a leather outer, cleated soles and fur lining. I haven't taken them off since I've been back!

Escape Live 

My brother works at Escape Live in Birmingham and he wanted us to see their new room so we went along and spent the morning trying to escape from a time travel disaster. We managed it with 3 seconds to spare.. much more successful (and actually a much more enjoyable experience) than my last escape room experience!


 Cadbury World

Our last stop of the weekend was Cadbury World! We were actually a little bit disappointing with their service - they kinda rushed us through - but anything involving lots of chocolate is still lots of fun! Having gone a little bit mad in the shop at the end, we left with bags and bags of discount chocolate just before Christmas so it wasn't all bad.

And after that, our trip came to and end! Stopping to pick Molly up from my other brothers house, we made our way back home ready for our next adventure a few days later; December was a busy month!

A Happy, Healthy, Solo Day in Soho

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Before I left to go traveling, Soho was where I spent all of my time. I worked there, I went out after work there and I went back at the weekends too, so when an email came through asking me how I'd choose to spend a day in the area, it was the perfect opportunity for me to reconnect with my favourite part of town.

Getting There

Soho covers the area between Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Picadilly Circus stations meaning it's is easily accessed from the Central, Northern and Picadilly lines.

If you're not a local, I'd recommend staying in one of the many hotels in Soho; you'll be able to walk out of your front door, right in on the action.

Gym

I started my day with a trip to the gym as it's something I've really been enjoying lately. I never know what part of London I'm going to be in so instead of signing up, I just pick up a day pass as and when. Fitness First have well equipped gyms all over London and it was super easy to just purchase a day pass. Their Kingly Street one was in a great location just behind Kingly court and very close to Oxford Street station.

Healthy Lunch: Detox Kitchen

The Carnaby Street and Kingly Court area is a must visit if you're in Soho and that's where I spent most of my day. Just outside of the gym was a very well placed, healthy restaurant: The Detox Kitchen.

I grabbed a baked salmon and lentil and kale salad for lunch. 

Shopping

I don't think there's been a day when I have gone into town and not looked in a few shops before I came home. With Oxford Street being one of London's most famous shopping areas, I hit up the shoe shops in search of a new pair of Converse.

Mission Accomplished.

If you are heading home on a train, don't forget about rush hour! I decided to head home at about 3pm to ensure a nice calm journey because I know from prior experience just how crazy it gets after 5.30pm. Beware, they often close Oxford Street station due to overcrowding. If you don't fancy heading home that early, then stay out until a bit later on; it's the perfect excuse for a couple of happy hour cocktails!

The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

2018 travel round up

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

They say you find yourself when you go traveling and I agree; I definitely felt that way after my first backpacking trip at the end of 2017. The only problem, was coming home. I was completely and utterly lost when I arrived back in London after three months. Moral of that story? Don't book return flights.

Within two weeks, I had booked the cheapest flight I could find; a one way ticket back to Southeast Asia. And when are flights cheapest? The specific hour of the year that you least want to be on a budget, long haul flight, with no entertainment system and a screaming baby on either side of you: as the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve.

Phuket, Thailand

After celebrating New Years in the air over India, I arrived in Phuket on January 1st and still can't really believe what happened there. I spent a few days getting over the tiredness, (I could blame it on jet lag although I'm pretty sure it was just my body getting used to drinking every night again.) I went out exploring with new friends during the day, and partied every night. Then one night when I decided to wash my hair with hand soap instead of paying for a new shampoo, I met Jonny at the hostel. We've probably spent less than 3 weeks apart since then.

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

We both had separate plans to go to Phi Phi the next day but had bought tickets at different times so I met up with him and his friends when I arrived later that afternoon. Phi phi is crazy and after one night partying on the beach with the most disguising buckets of alcohol I've ever sampled, we decided to book into a hotel room and stay in watching films for the rest of the trip .

 It was back to Phuket for another couple of nights before we split up to go our separate ways.




Chiang Mai, Thailand
 
 I massively fell for Chiang Mai the first time and having already spent the best part of a month there in November, I ended up staying for another two weeks in January. I was sad to have left Jonny but excited to be back in one of my favourite places. I was still finding new things to see and do everyday. On top of that, I had quite a bit of work to do so I had some wonderful days working from my laptop with a smoothie bowl on one side and a fresh coconut on the other. Literally living the dream.
With my visa about to run out, I had to move country and with no plans this time around, I decided to fly to Vietnam to spend another week with Jonny before he had to go back home to New Zealand.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I got myself a three month visa for Vietnam as I planned to travel north once he had left but it turned out that I didn't need it. I stayed in Vietnam for 3 weeks in total, all of which was spent in HCMC, the place felt like home by the time I finally left.

Being a big city girl, I loved the hustle and bustle and the crazy life that goes on through the streets of Saigon. The night I arrived was absolute madness; Vietnam had just won some kind of football semi-finals and I spent over an hour waiting for my visa to be processed because the officers on the other side of the glass were huddled around a computer watching the game. The whole county was out celebrating that night!
Apart from a couple of days sat in the chair at a tattoo shop (not me, the boys), I spent every minute of the next five days with Jonny and his friends, Jake. We all stayed at a party hostel for a few nights, before again, relocating to a hotel just next door. When the rest of the boys left to spent a day in Malaysia before catching their flight home, Jonny missed his flight and stayed with me in Vietnam; it was my first proper holiday romance.

I was traveling with no ties but he was just on holiday so when the time finally came for him to leave, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had a few fun hours here and there but honestly, I was just miserable for the next few days.
 I don't know how it happened but after hours worth of video calls, 24/7 messaging and a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I decided I was going to go to New Zealand.

My budget flight entailed nineteen hours and three planes but it was particularly cheap as it was on the TET holiday; which happened to be February 14th. How cringe. lol

Auckland, New Zealand 

Auckland was more of a 'move' than a travel destination and I spent five months working and living there with Jonny. Life was pretty simple but we were in 'new relationship mode' and just happy being with each other. Within a few weeks, we moved into our own place and I started paying rent for the first time in my life. Jonny also tried to teach my how to use a washing machine (although I still pretend I don't know how to use it so he'll do my washing.)
He bought a new motorbike the week I arrived so every weekend we would go on some kind of adventure; beaches, mountains, countryside, we even found a waterfall on our last week there. 

  Whilst there were quite a few adventures, as well as weekly visit to the cinema, the casino and a whole load of restaurants, we spent many a winters evening in bed watching Netflix with a pizza, a family sized bar of chocolate and the electric blanket turned up full. 

In July, Jonny took a years leave from his job in the NZRAF and we started our adventure by taking a road trip through New Zealand; it was one of the highlights of the year for both of us.

Waitomo, New Zealand

We first stopped overnight in Hamilton to visit some family then, in the morning we headed straight to the glow worm caves. Honestly, one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. We had a guided tour and a ride on a little row boat through the cave, which was lit up with thousands of glow worms, it felt like a real life Disney ride. 

Rotorua, New Zealand

After our morning there, we drove an hour to Rotorua. Stopping on the way for pastries and pies, we spent the afternoon at Skyline adventure park and the next morning at the Polynesian hot springs spa. With the new Luna moon that night, an evening spent stargazing from a hot tub finished off a very magical day.


Taupo, New Zealand

With a little bit more time in Taupo, we were able to relax in between sight seeing. Luckily, we were staying in an incredible room at Boulevard Waters which had a huge bathtub. 
Taupo adventures included Huka falls, the Crators of the moon and another thermal pool spa.


Wellington, New Zealand

We actually visited a couple of times whilst we were living in Auckland so I'd already seen all the touristy spots by the time we finished our road trip at his parents house in Wellington. Between unloading our life out of the car and last minute packing for our next big adventure, we spent time with his family and got back to our usual gym, eat, cinema routine for a couple of days.


Sydney, Australia

We left Wellington (a little later than planned; I missed my first ever flight because Jonny left the airport without one of his cases?!) for Oz with his brother and dad in tow. There wasn't too much time to explore but of course we managed to see the Opera house, wander around Darling Harbour and visit Newtoun, a very cool suburb where I had the most incredible smoothie bowl, just the start of what was to come from Australia.
 
Gold Coast, Australia

After very almost missing another flight, we finally arrived in Surfers Paradise; our home for the next few months. 
 We worked hard on the Gold Coast; but moving in with his best friends made it loads of fun. Since we were all doing Uber Eats (another strange highlight of my year). We spent most of our time together waiting for deliveries outside McDonalds at 3am or excitedly stuffing our faces with cancelled order.  

Nights off were usually spent either drinking by the pool, watching the sunset by the canal or playing ping pong at the bar. It was a pretty chill lifestyle.


As our time in the Gold Coast came to an end, it dawned on me that we really had spent alot of our time working, so we toned down the hours and made time for trips to Movie World, the Sky Deck and days at the beach.
 
Birmingham, England

On 10th December, after a 24 hour flight, Jonny and I arrived back in the UK. Landing in London, our visit home was short lived because less than 24 hours later, we had our annual family trip to Birmingham. I finally got to introduce him to my family and we have an action packed few days celebrating my dads birthday, visiting the Christmas market, Cadbury World and Warwick Castle.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Making the most of his first visit to Europe meant that we packed in quite a few trips in December. A few days later we were back at the airport and off to Edinburgh! 

Since New Zealand isn't exactly know for its countless castles, visiting Edinburgh's famous fort was top of his list; that's 2 in one week!  

 Between visits to the Weatherspoons, (something else they don't have in New Zealand and something Jonny now loves like a true Brit) we also did the Royal Mile, the Christmas Market and a ghost tour, which I had to sit out of at the end because I was too scared.


London, England

Finally, a few days at home for the festive period. Around Christmas day at home, I caught up with my friends and family, met both of my brothers new girlfriends and showed Jonny around London.



Wiltshire, England

And my last trip of the year was just a day long!
My dad had some work in Bath so Jonny and I tagged along. Since we were only supposed to have a couple of hours, all we had planned for the afternoon was to visit the Roman baths but my dad had the rest of the day off, we decided to visit Stonehenge too. Having Jonny here has been a great excuse to see all the places that I could never be bothered to see before. 

 

Whilst I went on less trips than the year before, 2018 was another crazy year for me - two years of travel madness that couldn't be more different! Leaving home on my own on new years day, I thought I was going to spend a few months solo traveling around Asia and then go back to real life, I never could have imagined how 2018 actually turned out!
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